Truck art in South Asia

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A typical decorated truck in Pakistan; most Pakistani trucks have an augmented rooftop to increase space for decoration
Front and rear view of two trucks in India, showing detail of various decorative symbols used in Indian truck art

Truck art in South Asia is a popular form of regional decoration, with trucks featuring elaborate floral patterns and calligraphy.[1][2] It is especially common in Pakistan and India.[3]

During the War in Afghanistan, Pakistani decorated trucks that ran services between Pakistan and Afghanistan came to be known as jingle trucks by American troops and contractors who were deployed across the latter country.

"Jingle truck" origin[edit]

The term "jingle truck" is military slang that was coined by American troops serving in Afghanistan, although it may also date back to the British colonial period. The term came to be because of the jingling sound that the trucks make due to the chains and pendants hanging from the bumpers of the vehicles.[4]


Truck being painted in Kochi, India

Many trucks and buses are highly customized and decorated by their owners. External truck decoration can cost thousands of dollars.[5] The decoration often contains elements that remind the truck drivers of home, since they may be away from home for months at a time.[6] The art is a mode of expression for the truck drivers.[7] Decoration may include structural changes, paintings, calligraphy and ornamental-decor like mirror work on the front and back of vehicles and wooden carvings on the truck doors. Depictions of various historical scenes and poetic verses are also common.[8] Outfitting is often completed at a coach workshop.[9] Chains and pendants often dangle off the front bumper.[10] In India, motifs depicting eagles, kites, cow nuzzling calf and nazar battu, and catchphrases like "Horn OK Please", "Blow Horn" and "Use Dipper at Night" are frequently seen.[11] Religious iconography, poetry and political logos are also common.[3][12]


One of the most prominent truck artists is Haider Ali. Trained by his father from his youth, he first came to international attention in 2002 when he painted a Pakistani truck as part of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.[13] Nafees Ahmad Khan, a truck art artist in Indore, is well known throughout India and has been designing one truck every day for over thirty-two years.[7] Mr. Syed Phool Badshah, also known as Phool ji, is a well known truck artist who is best known for his unique style of doing Fine Arts with Truck art.[14]

Regional styles[edit]

A tanker truck in Bhutan with Tibetan buddhist symbols like the snow lion used for decoration

In Pakistan, Karachi is a major city centre for truck art, though there are other hubs in Rawalpindi, Swat, Peshawar, Quetta and Lahore. Trucks from Balochistan and Peshawar are often heavily trimmed with wood, while trucks from Rawalpindi and Islamabad often feature plastic work. Camel bone ornamentation and predominance of red colours is commonly seen on trucks decorated in Sindh.[8]

In India, the Delhi-based artist Tilak Raj Dhir states that the slogans he adds to his truck art, which is prevalent throughout the National Capital Region, often change with the socio-political atmosphere.[15] The state of Punjab is considered a major centre of truck art in India, with a distinctive style and expert artists.[16] Poetry is commonly seen in truck art across northern India, and particularly in Uttar Pradesh.[12] Truck art in Hindi and Urdu is sometimes called Phool Patti.[17][18]


Truck art decorates the façade of a business in Peshawar, Pakistan.

Truck art has extended beyond the decoration and ornamentation of trucks into other forms and media.


Though cars are not traditionally decorated in South Asia, there are examples of cars embellished in a truck art style. In 2009, The Foxy Shahzadi, a 1974 VW Beetle decorated in a truck art style, travelled from Pakistan to France in a 25-day journey.[19][20] In the Indian city of Mumbai, some drivers decorate their taxis in a truck art style.[21]


The lively colours of Pakistani trucks have inspired some fashion designers.[22] The Italian fashion company Dolce & Gabbana used truck art-inspired displays in a 2015 campaign.[23] Although used more often on women's fashion, some men's clothing have been inspired by South Asian truck art.[24] Apart from clothing, truck art has also been incorporated into shoes by some.[25]

Print Design[edit]

Farid Bawa, an Indian graphic designer, collaborates with Indian truck artists to make and sell prints of truck art online in a bid to preserve the tradition of truck art.[26]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mughal, Owais (June 18, 2008). "Pakistan's Indigenous Art of Truck Painting". All Things Pakistan. Retrieved February 10, 2015.
  2. ^ "Tracing Truck Art beyond 'Horn OK Please': India and Pakistan's Truck Art tradition". Creative Yatra. 16 November 2016. Retrieved 31 July 2017. Largely a domestic art in its early years especially in North India and Pakistan, the ideation of beautifying trucks, lorries, and rickshaws with multifaceted patterns and calligraphy was common.
  3. ^ a b c McKenzie, Sheena (5 August 2015). "Pimp my ride: The psychedelic world of Indian truck art". CNN. Retrieved 31 July 2017. For truckers in India, that means a kaleidoscope of colors, slogans, and intricately painted symbols that are as much about bling -- as shrewd business sense. ..."A better looking truck attracts more business," says Shantanu Suman, graphic designer and filmmaker behind 2013 documentary "Horn Please," which explores India's spectacular truck art tradition.
  4. ^ Barrett, Grant (26 May 2005). "A Way With Words". Retrieved 2 September 2017.
  5. ^ Elias, Jamal (2005). "On Wings of Diesel: The Decorated Trucks of Pakistan". Amherst Magazine. Archived from the original on May 17, 2014. Retrieved February 10, 2015.
  6. ^ "Pakistan's truck art inspires catwalk fashion range - BBC News". BBC News. Retrieved 2016-10-23.
  7. ^ a b "Inside the World of Indian Truck Art". 2019-07-05. Retrieved 2019-09-18.
  8. ^ a b Covington, Richard (Spring 2005). "Masterpieces to Go: The Trucks of Pakistan". Saudi Aramco World. Retrieved February 10, 2015.
  9. ^ Nyland, Tim (October 19, 2006). "The Painted Trucks of Pakistan". Penn Current. University of Pennsylvania. Archived from the original on January 13, 2011. Retrieved February 10, 2015.
  10. ^ Pakistan's Dazzling 'Jingle Trucks' Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty ( June 14, 2017. Retrieved on 2017-06-19.
  11. ^ Iyengar, Radhika (2 June 2021). "India's Vibrant and Idiosyncratic Truck Art". Retrieved 17 May 2022.
  12. ^ a b Kafle, Dinesh (22 March 2021). "Ode to the Road: Truck Art of North India". Retrieved 17 May 2022. An example of such a space, the bumpers of the trucks in North India are often painted with couplets and quartets. Among North Indian trucks, those registered in Uttar Pradesh often carry writings that are closest to what we call truck literature: couplets and quartets.
  13. ^ Hart, Hugh (14 November 2014). "A Jingle Truck Artist Brings The Mobile Art Of Pakistan To America". Fast Company. Retrieved 17 August 2017.
  14. ^ "Syed Phool Badshah – Karachi Art Directory". Retrieved 2020-06-28.
  15. ^ Sharma, Manoj (20 April 2015). "Meet the men who convert trucks into colourful canvases". Hindustan Times. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  16. ^ Harris, Johnny; Thornell, Christina (17 July 2019). "India's trucks are works of art". Vox. Retrieved 17 May 2022.
  17. ^ "HERITAGE: SAYING IT WITH FLOWERS". 22 April 2018.
  18. ^ "Dover Rug & Home Presents Truck Artist, Haider Ali". Wellesley Weston Magazine. 30 July 2015. Retrieved 17 September 2019. In recent years, Ali and his students, and their students, have started a company they named Phool Patti, which translates to 'flowers leaves' in Urdu/Hindi.
  19. ^ "Foxy Shahzadi running away for good". The Dawn. 24 December 2010. Retrieved 13 June 2014.
  20. ^ Walsh, Declan (9 November 2010). "From Pakistan to Paris, by VW Beetle". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 June 2014.
  21. ^ Kinsella, Eileen (5 August 2015). "Indian Truck Art and Taxi Design-artnet News". Artnet. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  22. ^ "Pakistan's truck art inspires catwalk fashion range". BBC. 17 August 2012. Retrieved 13 June 2015.
  23. ^ Sheikh, Ibriz (30 May 2015). "Pakistani truck art takes over streets of Milan". The Express Tribune. Retrieved 13 September 2015.
  24. ^ "Truck art and fashion". Retrieved 16 October 2015.
  25. ^ "Pakistani truck artist gives new flair to kicks". Forbes India. Retrieved 17 May 2022.
  26. ^ Shrivastava, Cara (8 June 2021). "This Collective Is Taking India's Unique Truck Art To The World". Retrieved 17 May 2022.

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